Cold Weather Camping – 10 Tips To Keep You Comfortable
The fall season brings us all of the fuzzy feels. Soft sweaters, cozy blankets, finally using your oven again to bake hearty casseroles! There are so many wonderful things about fall, and one of the best is sitting around a campfire, bug-free, with your friends and a hot beverage in your hands.
Although, camping in the fall requires a bit more attention to detail when it comes to your packing list. Depending on how where you’re setting up camp, the size, weight, and amount of gear you bring will vary. Whether you’re car camping, tent camping, or winging it in a hammock, we’ve got a few tips to keep you warm and your spirits high.
There are many different options of tents to look at, from varying weights to long or square shapes, number of vestibules and especially ease of setup. You can probably get away with using the same cold-weather tent for spring, summer, and fall, but winter camping is unique terrain, literally, and requires very different gear.
Give yourself enough room.
It’s ideal to have a tent that can fit the number of people sleeping in it plus 1-2 more to hold backpacks, clothing, and other essentials. Store your personal items inside to avoid rain showers, but keep enough room between your gear and the walls of the tent to prevent moisture from wreaking havoc on your stuff.
Also, if you’re not concerned about weight, check out four-season tents. They have thicker walls, a rain fly, and a more robust base for better insulation. Plus, sturdier stakes to protect against wind and other harsh elements. It could be used for mild winter camping trips as well.
Sleep Soundly Even in Cold Weather
Camping in the fall is all fun and games until the sun goes down and you realize you don’t have enough blankets to stay warm. So, from the ground up here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Keep yourself off of the cold ground with an air mattress or sleeping pad. Not only will it feel better on your back, but it’ll also keep you warmer! Try a closed-cell foam pad or, even better, a self-inflating pad, layered with down. If you’ve gone your whole life blowing up your sleeping pad, this would be a seriously savory buy for you. Here is a great post from REI about how to choose the right sleeping pad for you and your trip.
Get cozy in your sleeping bag.
This is one of the most important items for cold weather camping. With the right sleeping bag, it won’t matter if your tent is old & worn, or if you forgot to wear your base layer. Sleeping bags can be pricey, but here are a few tips to consider when perusing bags.
- Camping with your loved one? Cuddle up! A two-person sleeping bag could save you money and work well for mild-cold temperatures because the body heat from two people will keep you both warm.
- If you accommodate for extremely cold temps and it doesn’t get that low, you could end up sweating in your bag – getting it wet – which will make you colder.
- A way around this is to find a bag ideal for temps around 30-40°F (this will also save you money) but be sure to bring enough warm layers to accommodate.
- Also, you can try to find a sleeping bag liner on sale that will serve as an extra insulating layer for a cozy night’s sleep.
Pro tips: (1) Fill up a water bottle with super hot water, securely seal it, and cuddle up with it for extra warmth in your sleeping bag. (2) Put next morning’s layers in the bottom of your sleeping bag so when you wake up you can throw them on and they’ll already be toasty warm!
Keep Dry and Camp On
Don’t let a little rain scare you away. Wind, rain, even a light dusting of snow can be prepared for ahead of time, making sure you don’t miss out on any of the traditional camp shenanigans.
Create a shelter space.
Set up a pop-up tent or a makeshift awning with a large tarp for the perfect spot to play cards, tell scary stories, and enjoy each other’s company. Brush up on your rope typing skills and be sure the tarp will shed the moisture in the correct direction.
The wonder of wool.
This is the superfood of clothing. It wicks away moisture and is quick to dry. Stock up on wool socks, wool hats, sweaters, and blankets, and be sure to get a dynamite baselayer. Check out this guide to the benefits of Merino Wool and learn how to properly wash wool without shrinking it!
Camp in your car.
If you’re car camping, you’ll have a luxurious amount of room! So, don’t feel discouraged if you don’t have a super compact, low-temperature sleeping bag. Gather up your comforter and any other blankets you have lying around the house, and toss them in with rest of the camping gear that’s being packed. If you’re tight on space and low on weight, a lightweight, stuffable “puffy”, or down blanket is the way to go.
Camp Kitchen Essentials
There’s no reason you can’t fill your bellies with warm chili or a hearty stew while you’re camping in the woods!
Prep meals beforehand.
A super easy way to prepare for camping meals is to chop up all of your ingredients beforehand and store them in large plastic-free, silicone Stasher Bags. If you’re adding meat to your meal, pre-cook it at home so you don’t need to worry about raw food contamination on your picnic table and utensils at camp. When you’re ready to eat, empty the contents of the bags and toss a few seasonings into the pot, for a quick, easy warm up. Serve meals out of a set of 18oz Squeeze-a-Bowls. The nature of silicone will insulate your food or beverages without transferring extreme temperatures to your hands.
A cast iron dutch oven is a must-have for fall or winter camping because they can create miraculous baked goods or delicious one-pot meals. Plus, they can last a lifetime if you take care of it. You may find one at a thrift store, plus a whole lot of mismatched utensils and flatware that’ll make your camp box a little more complete.
Bring unbreakable silicone camping dishware.
For worry-free camping adventures in all seasons, Silipints are essential. They’re indestructible, insulating to extreme temps with very little heat transfer to your hands, are easy to clean, adaptable and lightweight.
- Add boiling water and dry oats into a Squeeze-a-Bowl for a healthy and filling breakfast
- Make fresh, hot coffee from an Aeropress, directly into your insulating 16oz Silipint. Top it with the Lid XL and you’re ready for a morning hike!
- Poach an egg on the grill in indirect heat, or within a pot of boiling water
- Bring a set of Pints or Bombers with XL Lids for any beverage, hot or cold, that you might sip on throughout the weekend. Easy to clean, you can just rinse them out with boiling water and they’re ready for whatever comes next.
- Curious kids running around camp? Top their Half Pint with the Silicone Travel Lid and serve up spill-proof hot cocoa!
Always have a backup stove.
Depending on the time of year and location, there is a possibility that there won’t be enough dry wood to keep a steady fire going. So, for the sake of eating warm meals, bring along a liquid-fuel camp stove. They work better in cold temperatures than canister stoves. If you want to be fully prepared, pack a few Mountain House meals too. You never know when little critters, or hungry cousins, are going to come along and steal your food in the night.
Bringing furry friends?
Who are we kidding? Of course they’re coming. Just like in any scenario, prepare for the worst and be sure to pack plenty of food and water. Since it gets darker earlier, grab a Glow-in-the-Dark Aqua Fur Bowl so that you can easily spot it when it’s time for dinner. Also, snag a blanket for Fido. Humans aren’t the only ones who get cold!
Before You Go
Be sure to check the local weather conditions before you head out to camp. Cold weather camping is great because it’s much less crowded, sites are usually first-come-first-serve, and campfires are allowed. However, you definitely don’t want to be underprepared for surprise snow, ice or wind storms.